I was proud to be amongst the dozen or so councillors and candidates who poured into the WSCT offices last Tuesday (1st April) to sign up to the Free Speech Charter.
I was so pleased that the County Times has launched this initiative, since fairer representation and honest transparency is something that I have campaigned on for a number of years, and the ethos behind the Charter is the same ethos that I pride myself in using in my current role as parish councillor for Pulborough.
I simply could not wait to sign up to the Charter to demonstrate my commitment to the residents – not just those in Pulborough, but for everyone in the Horsham District too.
However, what struck me most when meeting all the other independent and party candidates and councillors signing the Charter last week was the realisation that with the exception of just two others (John Wallace and Roger Arthur), all the signatories were from the northern part of the District. The silence from the South Downs Conservative group is deafening!
Of course, it would be wrong to turn the Charter into any kind of a witch hunt against those that do not sign, but I would urge everyone to be very wary of considering casting a vote for a candidate who does not wish to sign the Charter at next year’s elections.
I would also be equally cautious about any candidate seeking re-election who is a late signatory of the Charter, because I must question where their loyalties really lie if they had to take time to think about whether or not they wanted to sign a statement that simply says that the candidate will put residents interests before party politics – surely anyone serious about becoming a publicly appointed representative should have no hesitation in agreeing to the terms of the Charter without need for debate or group meetings.
After all, it is not a legal document nor a political statement affiliated to a particular party or ideology, but a simple declaration printed on a piece of paper – albeit one that I was honoured to add my name to as a prospective Independent candidate and as a serving parish councillor.
Stane Street Close, Codmore Hill, Pulborough